When it comes to definitions in regards to politics, nothing is concrete. Conservative has different meanings at different times, and a conservative's definition of "conservative" is different than what a liberal would define a conservative as. Defining political parties is an even harder accomplishment because the two largest political parties in the U.S. are composed of so many interest groups that any over generalization can be somewhat wrong and somewhat right. So how do we distinguish between the parties? One way to is to look at their viewpoints toward government and economics. Republicans generally believe that the less government involvement in business is better, while Democrats believe that if left alone, the market is not fair and the government should step in to make it work better. We can also look at how the two parties see the public. Democrats tend to regulate economic life and generally do not pay much attention to personal lives, while Republicans want little economic regulation and general support laws regulating moral behavior.
-conservatives (right wing)
-deregulation of business
-typically against abortion
-liberals (left wing)
-gov't to be used to promote equality.
-universal health care
-pro labor unions
-want to be left alone.
-gov't only provides for national defense.
-generally against foreign intervention
-against legislating morality
-believe in a literal interpretation of the Constitution.
Most Americans understand that a simple majority of voters is how we elect representatives and senators, and most have heard of the Electoral College, but few understand how a candidate gets his or her name on the ballot, and how those ballots are counted and tallied. The thing about an election is almost every aspect of voting can be contentious, because HOW an election is held can influence the person that is elected. One of the most argued aspects of the American election system is that of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is made up of 538 electors, they are the ones who will ACTUALLY elect the president. There is ONE elector for EVERY US representative and senator, plus three for Washington D.C. For example, California has fifty-four electors and Delaware has three. The Electoral College was the idea of the founding fathers in an effort to compromise on how to choose the president, probably one of the most heated debates of the Constitutional Congress in 1787. There were some that wanted the Congress to choose, others wanted a direct vote, but in the end it was decided that each state legislature would choose their electors who would vote for the presidency. In the case of a tie, the House of Representatives will choose, according the Constitution. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote by 600,000 votes, but lost Florida and its twenty-one electors by only 937 votes. This gave Republican George Bush the win.
In most states you have to register to vote, usually a month or two before an election, this is done to prevent voter fraud so that states can keep track of who voted and who did not. The argument to this (usually Democrats), is that it makes it harder for people to vote by having to register because it mostly will impact those who change addresses more often, especially the poor and less educated, as well as younger voters. Some states have same day voter registration, and some have no registration requirement at all. There are various forms of voter suppression and voter intimidation. Voter suppression often means misinformation, people are told the polls are closed or that there are requirements for voting that don't actually exist, like showing a social security card or a government issued ID. Voter intimidation is rare these days.
Thirty states require ID to vote (this was upheld by a Supreme Court decision). During the Obama administration, US attorney general Eric Holder said that a South Carolina law that said you could bring one of four different kinds of ID to show at the voting booth was unconstitutional because in South Carolina, 10% of African-Americans did not have a photo ID to 8.4% of whites who did not.
Electing the President
Each political party will choose a candidate at the party's national convention. National conventions are held each summer before the election. Republicans and Democrats choose their candidates differently. Democrats choose their candidate through state delegates that represent the party from each state. A candidate needs a simple majority (one more than half), to get the nomination. The number of delegates that a state can send to a national democratic convention is based on the number of Democratic popular votes in the last election and its proportion of the electoral vote. Each county is given a certain number of of delegates. A county convention will be held where delegates are chosen from that county to represent the party at the state convention and so on.
Back to the electoral college, 538 electors are sent by the state parties, to cast their votes according to the dictates of the popular vote in their state, but every once in while, someone does not. If a Republican candidate wins the popular vote in California, that candidate will get all 54 electoral votes, even if he is only elected by 1% margin, he will get 100% of the electoral votes. Critics of the electoral college will have a hard time changing it because to change the election to a direct popular vote would require a constitutional amendment which would need to be ratified by 3/4 of the states.